Ghost Town Wednesday: Whitehorn, Colorado

According to a Fremont County, Colorado web site the population of Whitehorn was less than ten as of 2014.  Accounts vary, however, as to who founded the town in the mid-to-late 1890’s.  In one account prospector Dennis Patno came to the area in February of 1897, struck gold and started a rush to the area in the mountains northeast of Salida.  In yet another account the town was founded in May of 1897 by Arthur L. Whitehorn – according to a 1901 article published in the Whitehorn News, he was indeed the founder. Whitehorn had recently been appointed as U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor in Pitkin County, having also mined around the Tin Cup area.  He set up his assayer’s tent at the camp some miners humorously referred to as “Suckerville”.  However, the specimens he examined were promising enough and soon the town named in his honor began to be laid out. As soon as word spread of a gold strike, miners began to flood the area.  Initially, forty plots priced at fifty cents each were laid out and drawn by lots.  In those days gold strikes were reported throughout the region, especially in the Denver and Colorado Springs newspapers.  It was big news and correspondents were sent to cover it firsthand. By June there were already about two hundred miners living in tents and shacks or in the twenty-some buildings which had already been erected.  Edward M. Kraus was appointed as postmaster by the end of July, more than enough to make the town of Whitehorn “official”.  By that time about one thousand people were receiving mail there. The...

Early American Faith: The Wild Man of Goose Creek

By the late eighteenth century John Wesley’s Methodism, having spread to the American colonies, was formally established as the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore in 1784.  While the Congregationalists and Episcopalians remained along the Eastern seaboard of America, Methodism began to spread with the push into uncharted territories to the west. Methodists weren’t shy about their faith as circuit-riding preachers accompanied patriots who received land grants for their war service, crossing the mountains and heading to Tennessee and Kentucky.  Often the first person settlers met along the way was a man on a horse with a Bible in his hand.  While Francis Asbury is widely credited as the most famous circuit rider and responsible for Methodism’s early exploding growth (1784-1816), there is another man who made his mark in a much briefer period of time (1800-1804). John Adam Granade, a descendant of French ancestors, was born near Newbern, Jones County, North Carolina to parents John and Ann (Ward) Granade.  While some have published his birth date as May 9, 1763 others claim the exact date is unknown.  Although taught the fear of God by his mother early in life and embracing faith at the age of thirteen, John, a gifted poet, soon lapsed and gave “all his energies to the service of Satan”.1 Although not much is known about the first thirty years of his life, Granade later confessed intemperance to his fellow Methodists.   A journal entry indicates he would spend as many as seven consecutive days dancing and frolicking, although he hadn’t much of a taste for alcohol.  His father had died in 1791 and when John returned...

Feisty Females: Sara Payson Willis, aka Fanny Fern

March is Women’s History Month and what better way to kick it off than to highlight the accomplishments of first female newspaper columnist and highest paid nineteenth century newspaper writer Sara Payson Willis, a.k.a. “Fanny Fern”. Sara was born in Portland, Maine on July 9, 1811, the daughter of Nathaniel and Hannah (Parker) Willis.  Her parents had planned to name their fifth child after Reverend Edward Payson, pastor of Portland’s Second Congregational Church (five years later they named a son after the reverend).  Instead, she was given the middle name of Payson. Six weeks following her birth Nathaniel moved his family to Boston where he founded the first religious newspaper published in the United States, The Puritan Recorder.  As a deacon at Park Street Church and a strict Calvinist, Nathaniel frowned on dancing and other ungodly pursuits and worried about the soul of his free-spirited daughter Sara.  Hannah, however, was the polar opposite of her husband and the parent Sara most identified with. Her older brother Nathaniel Parker Willis experienced his own religious conversion at the age of fifteen, but after his rising success as a poet resulted in his being excommunicated from the Congregational Church, the elder Willis was more determined to see Sara embrace his faith as her own, sending her to Catherine Beecher’s Female Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. Sara, however, had no intention of conforming to her father’s strict faith.  Years later Catherine Beecher would tell Sara she remembered her as the worst behaved child in the school – and the best loved!  Harriet Beecher Stowe, a pupil-teacher at her sister’s school, remembered Sara as a...

Book Review Thursday: Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

After reading this book I have to wonder how I, having lived almost two decades in Southern California, never heard about this tragic man-made disaster which occurred on March 12, 1928.  I vaguely knew about someone named Mulholland who made a name for himself in Los Angeles and had one of the most scenic drives in Los Angeles named in his honor.  It’s almost like the City and County of Los Angeles swept it all into the dustbin of history, that is until author Jon Wilkman wrote this detailed account which was voted one of the best books of January 2016 by Amazon. Although I’ve never seen the movie, fans of the 1974 movie Chinatown would have an idea of the background of the story.  The water wars of the early twentieth century which pitted the burgeoning city and county of Los Angeles against the farmers and ranchers of Owens Valley were marked by rancorous disputes and what we would today call acts of domestic terrorism. Los Angeles had big plans to expand and grow and Owens Valley had abundant water resources.  William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant, had been involved in Los Angeles water matters since his arrival there in 1877, eventually becoming chief engineer and manager of the Los Angeles Bureau of Water Works and Supply.   Mulholland, a self-educated civil engineer and dam builder was well-respected, yet made some fatal mistakes when he oversaw the building of the St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon in the mountains north of Los Angeles. The story of the dam breaking and creating a harrowing floodpath to the Pacific Ocean...

Tombstone Tuesday: Zilpha Etta Scott Dockery (1796-1903)

She was born on September 8, 1796 in Virginia and moved with her family to Spartanburg, South Carolina at the age of three, an event she remembered vividly in 1902 when interviewed by the Dallas Morning News.  John Scott was a farmer and the father of three sons and eight daughters. While most of her family appears to have died young, Zilpha would more than outlive all of them, her life spanning three centuries.  When she was born George Washington was serving his second term as the first president of the United States.  Although Napoleon Bonaparte had just married Josephine his rise to power had not yet evolved. “My people were hard-working people,” she declared.  “We worked in the fields with plows drawn by oxen and made crops that way for my father the year before I was married.”1  Her childhood dresses were made of flax cloth, although she fondly remembered the first calico dress she made. “Calico was so skeerce and expensive we couldn’t afford any flounces and frills and trains them days.”  Instead, Zilpha wove flax cloth and traded it yard for yard for calico.  It was “purty”, she remembered in 1902, and she herself was “naturly purty”.  In those days folks didn’t wear their shoes on the way to church, corn shuckings, logrollings, weddings or fairs.  They would walk barefoot until reaching their destination, put their shoes on and take them off again before walking home. Zilpha married William Hiram Dockery in 1818, with whom she had nine children – six sons and three daughters.  From Spartanburg, they moved and settled among the Cherokee Indians in...

Book Review Thursday: The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt

After reading several books in the last two years about the Roosevelts – Franklin, Eleanor, Alice and Theodore – I believe this one is perhaps the most poignant one of all as it explores the relationship between Theodore and his youngest son Quentin.  He adored his children, and they adored him right back (with the exception, of course, of his first child Alice with whom he had a sometimes-strained relationship). This book by Eric Burns focuses on Theodore’s special relationship with Quentin, or Quenty-Quee as he liked to call his youngest son. Perhaps more than any other of his children, Quentin was most like his father.  They shared on particular thing in common – both suffered from one childhood malady or another – so much so that it pained Theodore to see his offspring suffer, especially “golden lad” Quentin who would be the frailest of all his children. Quentin was the one who “got away” with more than the older children.  When the Roosevelts occupied the White House, Quentin and his friends were known as the “White House Gang”, running up and down the halls, playing pranks, making mischief.  His spirit and joie de vivre were so much like his father’s it’s no wonder the two had such a special relationship. Many books have been written about Theodore Roosevelt, he being one of the most fascinating and colorful people to occupy the White House.  I expected this one to focus more on Quentin, given the title of the book.  Burns, however, spent a fair amount of time writing about Theodore while interspersing stories which highlighted their special relationship. Theodore...

Feisty Females: Sarah Jane Ames

When she died in 1926 Sarah Jane Ames was hailed as one of Boone County, Illinois’s “most virile, energetic, and withal most interesting citizens”.1 She was born Sarah Jane Hannah in Montreal, Canada on December 4, 1843, and in 1854 migrated to Belvidere, Illinois with her parents (Thomas and Jane) and two brothers. Save for a few years she spent pioneering in South Dakota, Sarah remained in Boone County the remainder of her life. Sarah married Albert T. Ames in December of 1865.  The couple adopted a son, Earl Theodore, and her obituary mentions a woman, Mrs. Esther Hickey (née Peterson), a Swedish immigrant who lived as a daughter in their home for several years.  While Albert engaged in various pursuits such as farming, auctioneering, cattle buying, “groceries, crockery, tin and stoves”,2 Sarah was an entrepreneur, a milliner. Sarah was a well-known horsewoman who regularly took the top prize in local competitions.  During a competition held in Chicago she rode the horse belonging to General Phillip Sheridan, winning the first prize of a gold medal encircled by diamonds.  In 1868 she was recognized at the county fair for her “taste and skill”.  As an astute businesswoman she regularly made buying trips to New York and Chicago to stock her shop with the latest styles. She actively participated in various civic affairs in Belvidere as a member of the Ladies Union,  Universalist Society and the First Baptist Church.  Neither did she shy away from politics, “an enthusiastic Republican always”,3 this despite the fact women weren’t allowed to vote until the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in...

Book Review Thursday: Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese Family Caught Between Two Worlds

This meticulously researched book by Pamela Rotner Sakomoto is a compelling story of a Japanese-American family finding themselves on opposite sides during World War II.   The book opens with scenes from one of America’s darkest days, December 7, 1941, following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Harry Fukuhara, twenty-one years old and living in Los Angeles, finds it hard to comprehend the news.  Meanwhile his seventeen year-old brother, thousands of miles away in Japan, had just boarded a train for a school track meet when he heard someone speak of “our victorious assault on Hawaii”.  Little did these two brothers realize they would eventually serve on opposite sides. Katsuji and Kinu Fukuhara, Japanese immigrants to America (he in 1900 and she in 1911 after marrying Katsuji sight-unseen – a picture bride), had five children – four sons and one daughter.  The oldest two children, Victor and Mary, were sent back to Japan at an early age to avoid discrimination and, ostensibly, to immerse them in the Japanese culture.  They both returned in 1929.   However, their three younger children – Harry, Pierce and Frank – were all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where Katsuji worked hard to provide for his family, despite often being shunned because of his ethnicity. The Depression years were difficult and when Katsuji died Kinu decided to return to Japan, taking all her children back to her ancestral home of Hiroshima.  Harry, however, vowed from the start to someday return to America – he was, after all, an American by birth and proudly so. First Mary and then Harry returned to America, determined to...

Monday Musings: A Red-Letter Day

Readers, both new and the returning faithful, you made my day on Sunday, February 7!  Thanks so much for stopping by in record numbers.  I was thrilled to see my Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl, but more excited to see these stats on my WordPress Dashboard: The article entitled “Ghost Town Wednesday: Cayuga, Oklahoma” was “the bomb” apparently as 247 views were registered.  Within that article was a link to the Tombstone Tuesday article for Mathias Splitlog (second place in total number of views).  Since the beginning of 2016 Digging History has circled the globe with well over 6,000 views from these nations: Thanks so much for your support and the encouragement to soldier on and keep writing.  I’ve been researching some great stories for what I hope will turn into a book about unique and unusual nineteenth century (Victorian era) headlines.  Stay tuned! If you’re a regular reader and haven’t signed up to receive an email each time a new article is posted, just provide your email address in the “Subscribe to this blog” box in the top right-hand corner and press Subscribe.  I hope you continue to find the articles interesting and informative — comments are encouraged and most welcome! Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY! Please consider a small donation to support Digging History. Click the DONATE button below (or the DONATE link at the top of the page for instructions) and you will be directed to a secure payment site where you may make a one-time donation or set up a recurring monthly donation (NOTE: NOT tax deductible). ...

Book Review Thursday: Brave Companions

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough is known for his meticulously researched historical and biographical works.  In Brave Companions McCullough combines essays originally written for magazine publication into a compelling book of short biographies.  Two of the essays were written as a result of research for two books: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 and Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Theodore Roosevelt, as well-known American historical figures, were profiled along with lesser-known or long-forgotten individuals such as Alexander von Humboldt.  Although born into an aristocratic Prussian family in Berlin, he decided to forego a life of privilege and chose instead to embark on an extended exploration of Latin America.  Charles Darwin would later utilize Humboldt’s extensive research and documentation.  In his best-selling book, Personal Narrative ITALICS, Humboldt described the need for a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Of course, that indeed became a reality many years later with the Panama Canal. In a way this book is a window into the thought processes of McCullough and his storied writing career.  McCullough would often find subjects for his books while researching another subject (that happens to me all the time!).  For instance, he pointed out that while researching The Great Bridge, the story of the German immigrant Roebling family and their stunning achievements in building the Brooklyn Bridge, he studied Henry Ward Beecher to understand the times surrounding the bridge’s construction.  Beecher was a renowned Congregationalist minister and social reformer, the brother...